2014-03-21 / Top Stories

Board: St. John’s Is Not Closing

By Miriam Rosenberg

CEO Brown (left) and Bishop Provenzano (right) during the forum. CEO Brown (left) and Bishop Provenzano (right) during the forum. After months of rumors, a ‘no confidence’ vote in the CEO, and a union critical of its moves; the CEO and Chairman of the Board of St. John’s Episcopal Hospital took part in a public forum last week.

Last Thursday’s meeting, held at Peninsula Prep in Far Rockaway and hosted by Senator James Sanders Jr., allowed area residents and staff to hear about plans the Board of Directors have for the hospital and to ask questions about the only hospital on the peninsula.

If there were a point the Board wanted to emphasize it was that St. John’s is not closing. It was announced that the hospital is in talks to merge with Catholic Health Services (CHS) of Long Island.

“It is not beneficial to be a stand- alone hospital,” said CEO Richard Brown. Brown also said that, should the merger go through, CHS and St. Francis Hospital have committed to bringing a catheterization lab (something on the mind of many who attended the forum) to St. John’s.

Residents and hospital staff came out for the forum on St. John’s last week. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg Residents and hospital staff came out for the forum on St. John’s last week. Photos by Miriam Rosenberg While nothing is definite with the merger, Brown said that St. John’s should know more within 60 to 90 days. Board Chair Bishop Lawrence C. Provenzano assured those at the meeting that the hospital is “committed to serving the people of Rockaway particularly since we are the only safety net hospital.” He said that the hospital’s first priority is to the people of Rockaway, while its second is to its employees.

The Bishop added that “decisions made refer to our mission and we are not in business to make money.” That mission, said Provenzano, is to “care for the people of Far Rockaway with the kinds of services the people of Rockaway need.”

Both residents and staff addressed some of the worries that consume many about the hospital. Said one staffer, “As a worker I am not seeing enough outpatient programs. I can't service the community with a lack of outpatient services.”

Many times during the evening the Bishop said, “When people ask hard questions, you deserve answers. You may not always like the answers.”

That was the case when Provenzano said, “There has to be tradeoffs.... What you're seeing is our desire to do the best for the people of Rockaway.” To which one audience member yelled, “It doesn’t make sense.”

Provenzano addressed the calls for the dismissal of Brown by saying that “Mr. Brown will remain as the CEO and that question is not on the table.”

He explained that “Mr. Brown, the administration and the hospital are following the direction of the Board of Directors of the hospital.” Those directions, he said, are necessary to get through the “difficult circumstances we’ve been placed in since Sandy, by the Department of Health, by the need for critical services to be provided, and for the need for a catheterization lab and for there to be a sustained shift in services for the future and not the past.”

State Senator James Sanders Jr., to the applause of the crowd, proposed that some type of ER should be placed at the former PHC building. He also promised the forum was just the beginning and more would be held.

Also taking part in the forum were James Clancy, the assistant commissioner of the state Board Health, Steve Kramer, the executive vice president of SEIU 1199, and Dr. Abiola Familusi, chair of the Medical Executive Committee at St. John’s.

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